The health and food sectors are two of the most heavily affected by the ongoing economic crisis in Sri Lanka, with severe medical and food supply shortages, availability of basic pharmaceuticals and overall health and wellbeing continuing to be significantly affected.
In this backdrop, building on established partnerships and keen interests of various actors, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka has leveraged its experience to develop a giving facility, comprising of two mechanisms; Firstly, by channelling private sector funds towards procuring essential and non-essential medical supplies and address food security; and secondly, by channelling individual donations through a crowdfunding mechanism set up by UNDP.
In response, key private sector actors including Hemas Holdings PLC, Dilmah Ceylon Tea Company, Brandix Apparel Limited and Daraz Sri Lanka have come forward to pledge their commitment through the facility to complement and strengthen the ongoing health sector efforts of the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) and food sector efforts led and coordinated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) among others. Sarvodaya, the United Nations Global Compact Network Sri Lanka and oDoc Sri Lanka will also come on board as Strategic Partners of the facility.
Speaking at the launch event held this evening, H.E. Ms. Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, Resident Coordinator, United Nations in Sri Lanka stated, “Now is the time for the private sector to show solidarity and prove what we have known all along – investing in prevention is good for business. Therefore, we call on you to urgently support our Humanitarian Needs and Priorities (HNP) Plan to provide life-saving assistance to the women, men, and children most affected by the crisis and thus prevent a deterioration of humanitarian needs in the country.”
Reiterating the crucial importance of inter-agency collaboration for crisis relief, Mr. Dilhan C. Fernando, CEO, Dilmah Ceylon Tea Company stated, “Sri Lanka will rise again as businesses, individuals, local and international agencies work together with the government to ease the pain our nation is suffering. Circumstances demand that we all act with the kindness and empathy that Sri Lankans are known for. With this mindset, we will face the present and future crises with strength. We are blessed to have the possibility of helping at this time, and thank UNDP Sri Lanka for initiating this collaboration while inviting every business that can help, to support the effort.”
Highlighting the key role the private sector has historically played in humanitarian efforts, especially in times of crisis, Ms. Kasthuri Chellaraja Wilson, Executive Director, Group CEO, Hemas Holdings PLC mentioned, “As Sri Lanka navigates its worst economic crisis, Hemas remains committed to support our people and our country. Being the leader in Pharmaceuticals we are committed to support the most impacted vulnerable communities, and enable access to medicines. Our partnership with UNDP is in line with these efforts and we will focus on providing essential and near essential medicine to communities across the island”
The launch event saw the participation of several high-level representatives from partnering organizations including Dr. Anver Hamdani, Director Medical Technical Services, Coordinating In Charge/ COVID-19, Ministry of Health; H.E. Ms. Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, Resident Coordinator, United Nations in Sri Lanka; Ms. Kasthuri Chellaraja Wilson, Executive Director, Group CEO, Hemas Holdings PLC; Mr. Dilhan C. Fernando, CEO, Dilmah Ceylon Tea Company; Ms. Natasha Boralessa, Group Director, Brandix Apparel Limited; Mr. Rakhil Fernando, Managing Director, Daraz Sri Lanka; Mr. Heshan Fernando, CEO and Co-Founder, oDoc Sri Lanka; Mr. Rathika de Silva, Executive Director, UN Global Compact Network Sri Lanka; Ms. Malin Herwig, Officer in Charge, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka; and Mr. Vimlendra Sharan, Representative for Sri Lanka and Maldives, Food and Agriculture Organization.
Speaking on the importance of addressing the need of the hour, Ms. Natasha Boralessa, Group Director, Brandix Apparel Limited stated, “The Inspired People of Brandix pledge our commitment to thoughtful solutions to the food security challenge we face as a nation. Through our Manusathkara initiative, we already uplift the lives of our employees and the communities in which we operate in with our Model Village programmes across Sri Lanka, and with this partnership with UNDP, we will infuse much-needed inputs for short and medium-term relief assistance to restoring seasonal agricultural cycles. Our efforts will create immediate impact to tackle the challenges at hand, and also drive positive sustainable change.”
Speaking on mobilizing the private sector beyond Sri Lanka, Mr. Rakhil Fernando, Managing Director, Daraz Sri Lanka stated, “Given the country’s development to middle-income status, mobilizing funds from beyond Sri Lanka will be challenging, but a concerted effort with international organizations like the UNDP to raise awareness of Sri Lanka’s humanitarian crisis among the global community is an important first step. We need to work to start the required conversations, explore all possible options and leverage our technology, markets, networks and resources to mobilize private sector funds outside of Sri Lanka.”
Reiterating UNDP’s convening role in the facility, Ms. Malin Herwig, Officer in Charge, UNDP in Sri Lanka stated, “The giving facility will provide vital health and food sector support, liaising closely with relevant partners on procuring and delivering based on clear requirements, in strict compliance with UNDP’s globally renowned procurement guidelines. UNDP through its overall response efforts towards Sri Lanka’s recovery has leveraged its prior experience and strong relationship with the private sector to kickstart this facility, and looks forward to engaging with further private sector actors in working closely with fellow UN agencies, committed to empowering and strengthening vulnerable communities.”
The individual crowdfunding facility will be launched in the coming weeks, which provides the opportunity for individuals to contribute towards alleviating the impacts of the crisis, not only through addressing shortages in the healthcare sector but also by contributing to strengthening food security and other response measures in Sri Lanka.